Teresa Stanek Rea, Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for IP & Deputy Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, delivered remarks at the Combined Medical Device & Biotechnology Partnership Meeting held January 29, 2013.
Rea explained that the USPTO 12 month pilot program called “Patents for Humanity” underway since last February, was initiated to reward companies that are able to bring life saving technologies to underserved regions of the world. The program’s goal is to highlight positive examples of humanitarian actions that are compatible with business interests and strong patent rights.
The program is structured as a prize competition. Applicants must describe how they have used their patented technology or products to address humanitarian needs in four categories to include medical technology, food and nutrition, clean technology, and information technology. As Rea said, “From life saving medicine to medical diagnostic equipment to delivering potable water, technology can play a critical role in improving lives.”
To help facilitate the process “Patents for Humanity” winners will receive a certificate that the winner can redeem to use to accelerate any patent application from their portfolio. It is anticipated that winners of the competition will be announced this spring.
Rea told the meeting attendees that there are stories behind the people who apply for patents and how these patents can change lives. For example, a company called “Second Sight” based in Sylmar California was in a position to develop, manufacture, and market visual prosthetics. The company was established to help the blind and visually impaired see in a new way. Their patented Argus II device allows individuals to overcome their visual disability by interacting with their surroundings in unprecedented ways.
Rea gave another example of how patents can help humanity. Dr. Gholam Peyman, the LASIK surgery inventor was recently named by President Obama as one of 12 recipients of the National Medal of Technology and Innovations. Dr Peyman is an ophthalmologist and vitreoretinal surgeon who has more than 135 patents.
His inventions cover a broad range of novel medical devices, intra-ocular drug delivery, surgical techniques, laser and optical instruments, as well as new methods of diagnosis and treatment. He has won numerous honors and awards, including induction into the Ophthalmology Hall of Fame.